Sacha Baron Cohen says he’s done with his controversial prank show Who is America? The Showtime star told the Hollywood Reporter the show was never intended to be a long-running one, and he cast doubt on being able to trick politicians and reality stars now that they’ve gotten wind of his characters.
“No,” Baron Cohen told THR when asked if there would be a second season of Who is America?
“I will never be able to get a politician to bare his buttocks while screaming ‘God bless America!’ and screaming the N-word. It’s like The Ali G Show in England — I did one season. And the idea is not to make it a Seinfeld or an SNL.”
Sacha Baron Cohen also revealed that he had to spend up to five hours in a makeup chair every day when filming the Showtime comedy, and he made it clear that wasn’t something he wants to do again anytime soon.
“It is grueling … I’m too lazy to do this.”
The comedian told Deadline it would be “impossible” for the prank-themed show to continue now that the cat is out of the bag.
“We relied on the fact that no one was expecting me. I hadn’t done anything undercover for over a decade and so nobody thought, ‘oh wait a minute, is this a Sacha Baron Cohen character?’ That’s the problem. You’d have to wait another 10 years to get away with it again, otherwise you’d have some very slim pickings. And no publicist worth his or her weight would allow an interview with anyone suspicious now.”
During its original seven-episode run, Who Is America? featured Sacha Baron Cohen in various disguises. The Borat star dressed up as characters that included Israeli anti-terror expert Erran Morad, conspiracy theorist and citizen’s journalist Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., and Gio Monaldo, an Italian billionaire playboy and fashion photographer.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) December 20, 2018
Sacha Baron Cohen tricked several politicians with elaborate pranks as hidden cameras rolled. Former Vice President Dick Cheney willingly autographed a waterboarding kit for Morad, and Georgia state representative Jason Spencer was convinced by a disguised Baron Cohen to partially show his buttocks and use racial slurs as part of “counter-terrorism” training. The embarrassment was enough for Spencer to resign from the Georgia House of Representatives one week later.
A segment featuring Sarah Palin never aired. After Palin was tricked into a fake interview with one of Cohen’s characters, she took to Facebook to blast the comedian for the disrespectful meeting.
“I join a long list of American public personalities who have fallen victim to the evil, exploitive, sick ‘humor’ of the British ‘comedian’ Sacha Baron Cohen, enabled and sponsored by CBS/Showtime,” Palin wrote.
Palin explained that she thought she was contributing to a “legit Showtime historical documentary” about U.S. war heroes but was instead interviewed by Sacha Baron Cohen disguised as a wheelchair-bound veteran. Once she realized she was being falsely interviewed, the furious former Alaska governor stormed out of the studio.
Showtime has not officially announced the cancelation of Who Is America?, and THR notes that CBS chief creative officer David Nevins told reporters in August that he was “dying” to bring back the prank show for more episodes. The original season of Who Is America? was kept top secret until just before it went on the air. In other words, Sacha Baron Cohen’s comment that he’s too “lazy” to keep his characters going could be his biggest prank yet.